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  • Writer's pictureJulia Sumzina

Maurice Béjart Program in Paris

This spring Paris Opera Ballet gave the audience an opportunity to see the golden cast of the dancers in the astonishing pieces by Maurice Béjart: L'Oiseau de feu, Le Chant du compagnon errant and the legendary Boléro. In the review on the performance which was streamed on 25 May 2023, I'd like to share my impressions.



L'Oiseau de feu


This ballet, created in 1970 and premiered in Paris with Michaël Denard as L’Oiseau (the Firebird) and Jean-Pierre Franchetti as Le Phoenix, was manifested as the homage to Igor Stravinsky as russian and revolutionary musician. Despite that fact the idea of a poet, an individual who can bring his fire to others in each revolution is fully from European humanistic philosophy. At the same time we can associate this ballet with the revolution or the war, when the ordinary people need a person who can bring them fire for fighting or surviving. The red light here is something that shows the way and warms in the darkness.

Mathieu Ganio as L’Oiseau astonishes by the lightness of performing and his natural existence in the birds and at the same time human gestures and reactions. His grace and wonderful legs look amazing in the specific Béjart’s choreography. The group of dancers connected in motion looks bounded to each other in one emotion, one idea. The sudden ‘explosion’ of the music and movement feels logical in the abstract ‘plot’ of the ballet and then, when L’Oiseau like a Phoenix is reborn from the ashes and the dancers (Le Phoenix was performed by Florimond Lorieux and he looked quite interesting in it) become one, the very end looks symbolic. whether we look at what is happening on the stage as a revival of the individual with his own forces, or with the help of someone who is ready to merge with him into a single whole.




Le Chant du compagnon errant



Le Chant du compagnon errant was premiered in 1971 and the first performers were Rudolf Noureev and Paolo Bortoluzzi. The abstract story about two men, one of them (the ‘Blue’ one) symbolises youth, its illusions, hopes and fears, another one dressed in red is Faith or Death, or just a mentor who leads his partner in his life way to its end. This ballet was inspired by a series of melodies for baritone and orchestra by Gustav Mahler (« Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen ») and the operatic vocal adds solemnity to the choreographic piece.

On 25 May the audience could see Florent Melac (in blue) and Audric Bezard (in red) telling the story of loneliness, vulnerability and the elegant power of the ‘mentor’, who can scare a little, but support and even take care of the younger man. Despite Melac is tall and looks quite athletic, his grace and plastique, the feeling of melodic ornament of the piece, his face expression… all this is heartbreaking in its sincere fragility. His ‘Youth’ is soft and affective, elemental and natural, potent and difficult to control. Bezard, looking like a lean version of an Antique sculpture, is strong, reliable with his amazing stature and expressive movements. He can dominate but supports his partner onstage, gives him a feeling of ‘someone next to you’ on this way. Even when the character in blue is afraid to take his hand we feel the bound between them. And when the touch happens, the immediate breaking of connection is something like a physical reaction: they must be connected again and again until the very end of the life path.


In my opinion the second part of the evening was equally powerful to the first and the third ones, but the most touching one.





Boléro


The iconic Béjart’s Boléro (1961) created to the music by Maurice Ravel composed for Ida Rubinstein in 1928 is a world famous piece. It has been performed by the brightest ballet stars including Jorge Donn, Maya Plisetskaya, Sylvie Guillem, Nicholas Le Riche, Diana Vishneva, Friedemann Vogel and others. This season in Paris gave the spectators the incredible opportunity to see the nowadays’ generation stars on the red table. Amandine Albisson and the dancers around the table showed the powerful kind of ‘rite’, my attention was attracted by noble and superbly moving Gregory Dominiak (as well as in L'Oiseau de feu) and young and fascinating in his energy Enzo Saugar. The rhythm of this ballet, as if diverging in a circle, enchants. It can be compared to a fire lit from a single match.



All three ballets presented by Paris Opera Ballet are physically and mentally demanding. Being abstract ones, the pieces show the inner energy of the dancers. So, why do we admire Maurice Béjart? For his breathtaking pieces about human nature. Why do we love Paris Opera Ballet? For the willingness to give themselves on stage completely.


Photos: Julien Benhamou (Opéra national de Paris), the screenshots from the livestream

Video: Opéra national de Paris


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